People who thought differently were called worms, dogs, traitors.
– from an article in The New York Times on the fallout of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide
Once in a hospital waiting room with my father,
another child kept turning around to look at me,
singing ching chong chow!
His tinny song went on and on.
I did not know how to react.
Ignoring the boy did nothing.
My first response was to bare my teeth,
bark, bark, bark! I grinned, wild-eyed.
The boy hid. My father stared.
When my children were younger they used to scream,
terrorized, running in the opposite
direction when any canine strolled by.
In Cambodia, they once feared
Vach du Mach, One with the Gun,
coward who killed millions, his own people.
Words were used as knives.
Children would turn in their parents.
The wrong sentence was a life sentence.
Cuddling my whiskered face up to theirs,
today my kids knead my fur in their tiny hands.
They call it puppy love.
Who are you?
I’m dog. I embrace my dogness.
Are you dog, too?